Bryan may blather, but any who know me will tell you I rant. Back in 2015, I wrote about why I was kicking my nearest King Soopers to the curb. After the post went viral, the grocery chain execs promised change — and we did get some. As soon as I was confident my photo with a big red slash was no longer posted on the employee break room wall, I started shopping at my neighborhood store again. And most of my shopping experiences went well. Until yesterday…
But, let me backtrack for a second. Last year, King Soopers raised the ire of customers by ceasing to double coupons. They swore that prices would be lower and we all would be happy with their new digital coupon system. In other words, they would be in control of what “deals” are available and who can take advantage of them. Like many, I’m still married to paper coupons. Digital isn’t my thing.
Granted it was an adjustment. I now have to recalculate my savings at King Soopers because many coupons are still less than $1. And frankly I haven’t seen any huge shift downward in the pricing of most grocery items.
The good news is my nearby Albertsons transformed into a Safeway, which still doubles coupons. So, I’ve reallocated my shopping pattern to buy more at Safeway and somewhat less at King Soopers. Still, there are some King Soopers sales that meet my sniff test and they stock certain brands I can’t find elsewhere.
About yesterday… as some of you are aware (especially those who have taken my workshops), I coupon for charity. What that means is I gather coupons from friends and neighbors and go out and find groceries, toiletries and other items for a local nonprofit that serves families in need and abused children. I rummage through clearance shelves, look for discontinued product lines and special sale tags. When I can get a deal on toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste and the like, I buy it, often for pennies on the dollar.
I don’t abuse the system, nor do I cheat. I don’t use more coupons than allowed. I don’t use a coupon on a product it wasn’t designed for and I don’t clear out the shelves. But over the course of a year, I can take about $500 and buy about $2500 worth of products.
Yesterday morning I went over to King Soopers early before the store got crowded. Coupons in hand I walked every aisle and even found a few items on the clearance shelves. This week King is doing its Buy 6 for $3 promotion. That means if you buy 6 designated items (they don’t have to all be the same), you get $3 off at the register. And you can combine those savings with coupons.
I picked up some lotion, body wash, shampoo, etc. All items that families can use. At self-checkout I carefully watched the register to ensure all my prices can up as marked (that’s an important thing to do as scanners are notorious for being wrong). Then it was time to use my coupons.
Let’s pause for s second. Why is it that King Soopers clerks, especially those who work self-checkout, seem more interested in chatting up their fellow employees than engaging with customers. I’ve yet to use self-checkout in the last six months when the clerk was actually paying attention to the shoppers and not gossiping or shooting the breeze with another employee, or two.
Most actually give you the evil eye for interrupting their conversation when you hand over coupons. Folks, break time is break time and work time is when you are to help customers.
But I digress. I handed over my coupons (breaking up a conversation — surprise! — between the clerk and her pal) and then watched as the coupons appeared on my checkout screen. That’s when I noticed that one of my two 75¢ coupons didn’t go through. The coupon was for a $1.50 body wash. I walked over to the clerk and pointed out that she had missed one of the coupons.
She admitted she had and scanned it again. It wouldn’t go through. Then they tried to double team me. Another clerk told me that I could only use one coupon, which is incorrect. With this coupon you could use two, one for each bottle of body wash, and yes, I bought two. The clerk just kept saying, “Well the system won’t put it through.”
Uh, it put through the first one. She just looked at me blankly. I asked if she could override and got a big, “No!” Granted its just 75¢, but I’m a pro at couponing. How many average couponers on a tight budget are being cheated? If I hadn’t watched the register I wouldn’t have even spotted it and certainly the clerk wouldn’t have notified me. She was going to simply take the coupon and the store would have received the reimbursement.
I long for the days when Tony was my go-to clerk at a now-closed Safeway. If the register gave him any sass, he just took charge and if a coupon was valid, gave me the credit I deserved. No one broke any rules, he just realized that sometimes the register scanner isn’t always right.
Granted stores are being ripped off by coupon fraudsters so I understand their caution, but even I can tell a valid newspaper insert coupon (the slick paper, the glossy look) and can read the fine print.
Unfortunately King Soopers has fallen back into its old habits of putting clerks with limited knowledge of coupon rules and procedures (and without the authority to fix a problem) on the front lines. They need better training and while it’s tedious working the self-check line, the socializing among themselves instead of engaging with customers needs to stop.
Dear King Soopers,
Please put the service back into customer service.
P.S. Kind MHOTC readers, thanks for letting me rant. I feel much better.